The year started on a high, when in October 2013, The Turner Prize moved to Derry~Londonderry. A successful exhibition that ran into January 2014, and provided with a custom-built space, Turner saw record numbers of art enthusiasts making their way North. It also set the eye of a thriving London contemporary art scene upon us. Local gallery, CCA moved into 2014 confidently, building on its involvement in Turner and gaining a new Director in the shape of former Glucksman Curator, Matt Packer. On the other side of Ulster, The Mac continued an impressive programme of shows interspersing emerging talent such as Susan Connolly, with more established artists. Graham Gingles made stunning use of The Mac’s ‘Sunken Gallery’ to deftly memorialize those Irish men that fought in WW1.
Following on from CCA, it was Director all-change elsewhere in the Country. Create Ireland, Axis Ballymun (CEO),The Dock, Leitrim, The Model, Sligo, Business to Arts, all advertised for new Directors. Miranda Driscoll, long admired for her exemplary programming at The Joinery, Dublin, moved to Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh. Helen Carey left Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA) for Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin and Cliodhna Shaffrey (leaving her visual arts advisor position at the Arts Council) moved seamlessly into the Directorship of Temple Bar Gallery & Studios. During this period artist Elaine Byrne delivered a stunning show at LCGA, this space also providing the centre for a thrillingly complex and diverse EVA, 2014 curated by Bassam el Baroni. Worryingly, however, the Directorship of LCGA at this point remains undecided.
On the art-creation side of things, Michelle Browne in usual indeterminable capacity took over Dublin Castle for performance event ‘These Immovable Walls’, reminding us that we have wonderful historical buildings that should, and can, be used for contemporary art. Caoimhe Kilfeather had a busy a year with two very different, but equally engaging exhibitions at Oonagh Young Gallery and TBG&S. Patrick T. Murphy’s ‘art-radar’ was functioning well at the RHA and 2014 saw this establishment develop a programme that truly inspired. From an informed Maria Simonds-Gooding retrospective to the epic ‘Connemara’ by Dorothy Cross to Karl Burke – another busy one (having recently shown at ‘The Centre for Dying On Stage’ at Project Arts), as well as one of my favourite ‘Futures’ so far, featuring the work of Adam Gibney, Aoibheann Greenan, Shane McCarthy and Helen G. Blake. Cross also remained busy with a newly commissioned work for Lismore Arts, a showing of work at Kerlin, as well as managing to find the time to curate an inventive and considered showing of old and new Irish art at IMMA this December in ‘Trove’.
Eva Rothschild showed her first mid-career retrospective at Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane and in Merrion Square Aoife Tunney curated ‘Vestibule’ also featuring Rothschild. The Hugh Lane went on to provide the backdrop for Padraic E. Moore’s fascinating ‘A Modern Panarion’, a contemporary art investigation into Dublin’s 19th Century Theosophical Society. Further west, and quickly following their stunning installation at IMMA for The Shapeshifter’s Ball, ‘The Domestic Godless’ (Stephen Brandes, Mick O’Shea and Irene Murphy) impressed everyone with their singular form of culinary art experimentation at a very well received Tulca Festival, curated by Aisling Prior.
The team at Lismore Castle Arts displayed a keen-eye for emerging talent in their 2014 graduate exhibition, ‘Origins’. Sandra Davoren’s work impressed, and was duly purchased for the Castle collection. It is wonderful to see galleries such as Talbot Gallery and Lismore Castle Arts continue to support the talent emerging from Graduate programmes. The graduate shows, in particular those at IADT this year showed what a wealth of talent we have in the photography field, and this proved to be a strong curatorial point of focus throughout the country, the highlight of which came at the RHA (again) with a well received and deeply moving journey by Dragana Jurisic through her home country, (the now defunct) Yugoslavia, in ‘Yu: The Lost Country’.
Kate Strain temporarily assumed the curatorial reins at Project Arts Centre and delivered some stellar shows including the relentlessly engaging ‘The Centre for Dying On Stage’ that, with the help of Karl Burke’s ‘Omnipresent’, transformed Thursday’s at Project into the Dive Bar. One bar featuring a talk by Kevin Atherton, himself busy after leaving his teaching position at NCAD with an emotive rendition of ‘Two Minds’ at NCAD Gallery. This particular work was then re-shot and faced-off with its historical progenitor for ‘Primal Architecture’ at IMMA. Strain also teamed up with co-curator Rachel Gilbourne and the pair rightly received the emerging Curator mantle at The Lab, bringing to us the wealth of talent that was ‘Tonight you can call me Trish’ including the fantastically odd work of Rachel Maclean. Maclean surprised no one by quickly becoming a superstar and after ‘Trish’ was commissioned to create a new film work by CCA Glasgow as part of Scotland’s ‘Generation’ exhibition.
Pallas Projects linked in with Whyte’s to hold their first auction and Green on Red left their space on Lombard street, eventually re-opening at Spencer Dock with group-show ‘RENEW’. Meanwhile TBG&S exposed us all to the craziness that is Nathaniel Mellors in ‘The Sophisticated Neanderthal Interview’, the artist then went on to receive the Contemporary Art Society Award for 2014, a take-home of double the Turner Prize. Kerlin Gallery also delivered a host of high-impact shows and introduced us to the work of Seamus Harahan, Eoin Mc Hugh, Caroline Achaintre to name but a few. Elsewhere on the gallery front as the sad news emerged that Dublin was losing the much-loved Joinery, ArtBox opened up in the Monto, fortifying an already thriving art-hub in the north inner-city consisting of Oonagh Young Gallery, Talbot Gallery and Studios, The Lab and Fire Station Artists’ Studios. Art Prizes galvinised a weakened funding store, by injecting market money into the arts through corporate links. The Hennessy Portrait Prize came to the National Gallery of Ireland, and in Belfast, The Mac International prize was launched, and won, by Mairéad McClean.
And we finish, much as we began, with Irish involvement in Turner. Duncan Campbell was announced as the 2014 winner in December at the same time his solo exhibition opened at IMMA. Abroad, Scotland’s ‘Generation’ showed us what a small arts community can achieve, churning out endless high impact artists that have in their own way transformed the face of contemporary art. Pierre Huyghe mesmerized us with his time exploration in ‘IN. BORDER. DEEP’ at Hauser & Wirth, London. In Paris Paul McCarthy displayed his ‘Butt Plug’ (briefly), whilst in the very different Art World of New York, Jeff Koons grinned his way through a plastic phantasmagoria, his works feeding off, and catering to, a never-ending lust for fame.
Main Image: Dragana Jurisic, Yu: The Lost Country, 2014.